​Can’t Is A Mask We Hide Behind


When you find yourself hit with repeated failures, worn down until your confidence has withered and you have lost the ability to make decisions – at least without validation or permission from others – it is easy to think that you can’t. If you are of a meeker disposition, and find yourself in the company of those blessed with a modicum more confidence than you, it becomes easy to defer any kind of decision making to those who quite obviously can. 

Over and over you refrain from the effort and risk of deciding, and leave it to the others. Because you are not qualified, you are not capable. You are not someone who can.

You look up to the man who can, while increasingly finding yourself as someone who can’t. And the problem with “can’t” is that, when it is repeated often enough, like some sort of mantra, it becomes ingrained in who you are. At first you wear can’t like a mask of insecurity that we hide behind lest we be exposed as the inept, incapable failures at life that we truly are. It protects you from the risk of failing. But after a while you forget that it’s a mask at all, and it becomes part of your identity.

You have become someone who can’t.

Devoid of any decision-making power, you are unable to rise to even the smallest challenges because, after all, you can’t. You will fail. It is who you are, and this is just how it is for people like you. People who can’t.

But can’t is lazy. It saps away your energy, distorts your self image and your perspective of the world we live in, and it steals your potential from us. It gives you an excuse, a reason not to bother or make the effort. The world around you becomes difficult, too complex and challenging for the person you think you are.

But can’t isn’t your natural state. It’s not who you really are. Yet you’ve been hoodwinked by a few too many failures, by being overwhelmed by others who are more decisive and more inclined to “can” than you. And you are stuck in this rut believing you are something you are not.

And meanwhile life – and your potential to make the most of it – carries on without you.

The problem with can’t is that it gives you an excuse not to try. It gives you something to fear – failure. Because if you were to try and it doesn’t work out, what will people think? What about all that time you will have wasted? But the time will pass anyway whether you try or not, and while you’re hiding behind can’t your potential is wasted.

However, “can” is a different kettle of fish. All it asks for – at the beginning anyway – is that you see what happens. That’s all. Can asks you to pull back the sheets and look around the room. And when you realise that nothing bad will happen, it asks you to get up and leave the bedroom. And when you realise that is safe, too, can tempts you to get dressed and go outside. And step by step, with just a little bit more effort each time, can transforms you.

I can face the day. I can step outside. I can mix with other people. I can recognise my strengths. I can apply for that job, change my bad habits, build something amazing. I can make the decision of what to have for dinner tonight, what to wear to work in the morning, what to do with the rest of my life.

I can take responsibility for both my failings and my successes. I can be someone that others look to for leadership, guidance and support. I can be the version of me that gets things done, realises my potential, and makes the most of the opportunity that each day offers to me.

Can will transform you. Can will set you free. But it needs you to make the effort try. It all starts with the smallest decision, the smallest leap of faith. If you can face the day that lies ahead then you are no longer someone who will hide their potential behind the mask of insecurity called can’t.

You are someone who can.